Finally, the UFC has figured out the path to further inclusion with fighters of color on its roster. The solution: let the Jamaicans do the talking and the British do the editing.
UFC welterweight, Leon “Rocky” Edwards (18-3, 6 KO’s) has his biggest fight coming on March 21st when he is scheduled to face former champion Tyron Woodley in the O2 Arena in London.
A new start, a new home 🇯🇲🏴
Out of the streets and into the cage 👊
— UFC on BT Sport (@btsportufc) March 9, 2020
Leon, grew up in Birmingham, England but is originally from Kingston, Jamaica. He started training mixed martial arts when he was 16 and his story is one the hood can relate to because it was told to us correctly.
BT Sport, the UFC’s broadcast partner in the United Kingdom, created an amazing action meets anime promotional video for Edwards. The bold promo is narrated by Edwards’ very Jamaican mother whose patois is both genuine and heartfelt.
She describes her son’s journey from Jamaica’s island trappings and dangerous Caribbean streets to Birmingham, England. Along the way, he lost his father and did not know where to turn. He got into fights and not sure of where to focus his anger, his mother allowed him to experience the mixed martial arts gym.
He took to the haven for lost boys and it took to him as well. It is a story told traditional for the boxing audience but it is also the matriculation of many black boys and girls into the MMA arena. However, now, it has the soul to match the tale.
The Brits Are Coming
Edwards is fighting former UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley who is from Ferguson, Missouri. Because, the UFC never understood how to promote Woodley, who is a former NCAA Division wrestler that went to Mizzou, he promoted himself.
From social activism in his hometown when Mike Brown was shot by police officer Darren Wilson on August 9th, 2014 to becoming a rapper, Woodley hit the ground running. He even has a show on TMZ called The Beatdown where he whimsically discusses pop culture.
However, that energy never translated to his core MMA audience. When Woodley complained about not being paid enough as a champion and a star, he was called a race-baiter. When he pointed out the disparities between the athletes of color are promoted versus others in the UFC, he was booed voraciously as he walked to the Octagon.
In short, Woodley never was given a fair chance and his story was never told as vividly as the Brits did for their countryman in Edwards. It is in part because America will forever be afraid to tackle the difficult realities of the American dream and how black people were never configured into it.
When a black man “makes it” in America, it is a fluke story used to justify the oppression of the masses. If he can do it, so can you. However, that storyline leaves no room for complaints from the achieving star, since he is an example of success. It put Woodley in the same quandary that former UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans faced before him.
But when you look at the video for Edwards’ fight, it provides hope that somewhere, someone gets it and is willing to meet people of color on their terms. No over the top rags to riches story like Kimbo Slice and no pandering narrative spoken through a lens not authentically of the culture.
No, they went and got Leon Edwards’ momma and the game couldn’t be more grateful for her.